Day 11 in Copenhagen: Signs of Life?

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised that the U.S. would work with other countries to $100 billion a year in climate aid for poor countries by 2020. As Mark Leon Goldberg explains, the fund that Clinton wants to establish would be an important step towards climate justice because it would be a mechanism for the rich countries whose emissions caused climate change to subsidize adaptation and mitigation for poorer countries. Clinton didn’t say how much the U.S. would contribute. Not all the money would be foreign aid, privately-funded projects like carbon offsets would also count towards the $100 billion figure.

Clinton’s pledge breathed new life into the climate talks, however two key hurdles stand between Clinton’s promise and action: China and the U.S. Congress.

The U.S. and China remain at loggerheads over emissions verification. Experts say the U.S. won’t act unless China also commits to emission reductions. However, China continues to balk at the U.S.’s demands that it submit to international emissions monitoring. Clinton is adamant that developing countries must submit to emissions monitoring as part of any aid deal.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy wants to keep the Kyoto Protocol alive. Kyoto enshrines the principle that only rich countries should be compelled to cut emissions. Since the beginning of the Copenhagen summit, developing countries have been agitating to preserve the Kyoto protocol. In defending Kyoto, Sarkozy is breaking with his allies in other developed countries including the United States. The U.S. argues that, as a matter of science, emerging economies like China, India, and Brazil must cut emissions in order to meet targets for stopping climate change.

Bolivian President Evo Morales is calling to limit temperature increases to 1 degree Celsius, the most ambitious target proposed so far by any head of state. Morales is also calling upon rich countries to pay a climate debt to developing countries. “The best thing would be that all war spending be directed towards climate change, instead of spending it on troops in Iraq, in Afghanistan or the military bases in Latin America,” Morales told Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!.

The U.S. is probably the world’s leading emitter of global warming denialists, but China is catching up. The LA Times reports a growing underground school of “historical meteorology,” discounted by mainstream scientists, which argues that China has historically prospered during warmer-than-average eras and suffered tragedies (like barbarian invasions) during cold periods. At least China’s climate naysayers have the good sense to keep their views on the down low, unlike their U.S. counterparts.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged delegates to make the most of the time they have left. He believes that there is still time to seal a climate deal. “We have only 24 hours left. I urge all the leaders to exercise their political leadership based on common sense, compromise and courage,” Ban said.